SARATOGA SPRINGS — An experienced teacher who wants schools to return to in-person learning was the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s Saratoga Springs Board of Education election, as three people were elected to the board as the district eyes a return to all in-person education in the fall.
Connie Woytowich, a master teacher at Colonie High School who also teaches at the University at Albany, received 2,851 in Tuesday’s election, according to unofficial vote results. The district’s $134.6 million annual budget for 2021-2022 was also approved by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.
Also elected in a competitive five-way race for three seats was John Ellis, the only incumbent running for re-election. The employee of the Ballston Spa Central School District was seeking his third three-year term. He received 2,344 votes, the second-highest vote total.
For the third seat, Amanda Ellithorpe appeared to have won with 2,251 votes, though Casey Putnam was only 19 votes behind, and affidavit votes remain to be counted. The fifth candidate, Christina Kraszewski, received 2,208 votes.
With three seats up for election, Ellis was the only incumbent who sought re-election. Joanne Kiernan and Patricia Morrison did not seek re-election. The district ended up with five people running for three seats.
Woytowich, Ellithorpe and Kraszewski had the backing of Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, which was formed in 2018 in opposition to a Board of Education decision to remove armed grounds monitors from the schools. More recently, the group has focused on returning the district to full-time in-person education.
Saratoga Springs, like many districts, has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and state and federal guidance with a hybrid model in which some students are in school and others learning remotely, and all students learning remotely on some days. The state guidelines for what will happen in the 2021-2022 school year remain unclear, but parents across the state and country have grown more vocal with their frustrations about remote learning.
“Like many parents across the Saratoga Springs City School District, I am looking forward to the 2021-2022 school year with a full-time, in-person educational experience for our children that fosters a healthy routine, puts learning at the center of every decision, and highlights the need for community, mental health awareness, respect for others, a safe learning environment, and a sense of love and belonging,” Woytowich said in campaign literature. She and her husband have four daughters attending city schools, elementary school through high school.
The other new board member, Ellithorpe, is a single mother of two elementary school daughters who attended school remotely this year and a literacy advocate working with a children’s publisher. Raised by two educators, she said, “After the past year, I am more committed than ever before to ensuring our community’s children have a safe and healthy environment in which to learn and that all students have equal access to educational opportunities.”